On March 2, producer ORRIN KEEPNEWS will mark a major personal milestone: His 80th birthday. To help him celebrate that incredible fact," as Orrin terms it, Moose's Restaurant and the San Francisco chapter of the Recording Academy are producing an event on that Sunday afternoon at Moose's Restaurant in San Francisco which will feature live music and tributes from Orrin's friends and surprise guests.
In addition to appreciating his enormous contributions to jazz as a record label head, producer, historian, and all-around catalyst, Fantasy Records is among those who count Orrin as a valued friend and colleague. He joined the company in 1972 as Director of Jazz A&R, relocating from New York to San Francisco, where he has lived ever since. He thereby found himself under the same roof as his Riverside masters: earlier that same year Fantasy had acquired the legendary jazz indie which Orrin co-founded in 1953 and where he served as head of A&R operations until Riverside's 1964 demise. His new duties included overseeing Fantasy's ambitious twofer reissue program, and Orrin relished the job of reissuing albums (by Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, and myriad others) he'd himself produced some 20 years before.
Orrin was reunited with his Milestone masters as well, Milestone being another Keepnewsian record company venture (Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, and Sonny Rollins, a Milestone artist to this day) that started up in 1966 and in '72 became part of Fantasy's growing family of labels.
In the fall of 1980, Orrin departed Fantasy for the freelance life, but was unable to resist launching one more label: Landmark (Mulgrew Miller, Bobby Hutcherson, Wesla Whitfield), which was distributed by Fantasy and which Orrin continued to operate until 1993.
Since then, Keepnews has remained very active as a producer of both reissues and contemporary artists. His most recent Grammy (2000) came in the Best Historical Album" category, for RCA-Victor's 24-CD Duke Ellington box; next week he'll know whether he's done it again, having been nominated for his Artie Shaw boxed set.
This spring, Milestone will release two of Keepnews's more recent productions: State of Mind, a label debut by Bay Area tenor saxophonist Dave Ellis (due out 4/22); and Live-Lee, recorded live at the Jazz Bakery in L.A. by Lee Konitz and Alan Broadbent (a 6/3 release).
The Moose's birthday event will take place on Sunday, March 2 from 3:00 to 5:30 pm. Reservations are $20 (phone 1-800-28-MOOSE or 415-989-7800 ext. 11); proceeds will benefit the Education Fund of the San Francisco Recording Academy.
Happy 80th, Orrin!